How to Enable Rapid Patch Testing with Veeam Backups and Veeam DataLabs

Source: Veeam

Unfortunately, bad patches are something everyone has experienced at one point or another. Just take the most recent example of the Microsoft Windows October 2018 Update that impacted both desktop and server versions of Windows. Unfortunately, this update resulted in missing files for impacted systems, and has temporarily been paused as Microsoft investigates.

Because of incidents like this, organizations are often seldom to quickly adopt patches. This is one of the reasons the WannaCry ransomware was so impactful. Unpatched systems introduce risk into environments, as new exploits for old problems are on the rise. In order to patch a system, organizations must first do two things, back up the systems to be patched, and perform patch testing.

A recent, verified Veeam Backup

Before we patch a system, we always want to make sure we have a backup that matches our organization’s Recovery Point Objective (RPO), and that the backup was successful. Luckily, Veeam Backup & Replication makes this easy to schedule, or even run on demand as needed.

Beyond the backup itself succeeding, we also want to verify the backup works correctly. Veeam’s SureBackup technology allows for this by booting the VM in an isolated environment, then tests the VM to make sure it is functioning properly. Veeam SureBackup gives organizations additional piece of mind that their backups have not only succeeded, but will be useable.

Rapid patch testing with Veeam DataLabs

Veeam DataLabs enable us to test patches rapidly, without impacting production. In fact, we can use that most recent backup we just took of our environment to perform the patch testing. Remember the isolated environment we just talked about with Veeam SureBackup technology? You guessed it, it is powered by Veeam DataLabs.

Veeam DataLabs allows us to spin up complete applications in an isolated environment. This means that we can test patches across a variety of servers with different functions, all without even touching our production environment. Perfect for patch testing, right?

Now, let’s take a look at how the Veeam DataLab technology works.

Veeam DataLabs are configured in Veeam Backup & Replication. Once they are configured, a virtual appliance is created in VMware vSphere to house the virtual machines to be tested. Beyond the virtual machines you plan on testing, you can also include key infrastructure services such as Active Directory, or anything else the virtual machines you plan on testing require to work correctly. This group of supporting VMs is called an Application Group.

patch testing veeam backup datalabs

In the above diagram, you can see the components that support a Veeam DataLab environment.

Remember, these are just copies from the latest backup, they do not impact the production virtual machines at all. To learn more about Veeam DataLabs, be sure to take a look at this great overview hosted here on the Veeam.com blog.

So what happens if we apply a bad patch to a Veeam DataLab environment? Absolutely nothing. At the end of the DataLab session, the VMs are powered off, and the changes made during the session are thrown away. There is no impact to the production virtual machines or the backups leveraged inside the Veeam DataLab. With Veeam DataLabs, patch testing is no longer a big deal, and organizations can proceed with their patching activities with confidence.

This DataLab can then be leveraged for testing, or for running Veeam SureBackup jobs. SureBackup jobs also provide reports upon completion. To learn more about SureBackup jobs, and see how easy they are to configure, be sure to check out the SureBackup information in the Veeam Help Center.

Patch testing to improve confidence

The hesitance to apply patches is understandable in organizations, however, that does not mean there can be significant risk if patches are not applied in a timely manner. By leveraging Veeam Backups along with Veeam DataLabs, organizations can quickly test as many servers and environments as they would like before installing patches on production systems. The ability to rapidly test patches ensures any potential issue is discovered long before any data loss or negative impact to production occurs.

No VMs? No problem!

What about the other assets in your environment that can be impacted by a bad patch, such as physical servers, dekstops, laptops, and full Windows tablets? You can still protect these assets by backing them up using Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows. These agents can be automatically deployed to your assets from Veeam Backup & Replication. To learn more about Veeam Agents, take a look at the Veeam Agent Getting Started Guide.

To see the power of Veeam Backup & Replication, Veeam DataLabs, and Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows for yourself, be sure to download the 30-day free trial of Veeam Backup & Replication here.

The post How to Enable Rapid Patch Testing with Veeam Backups and Veeam DataLabs appeared first on Veeam Software Official Blog.


How to Enable Rapid Patch Testing with Veeam Backups and Veeam DataLabs

More tips and tricks for a smooth Veeam Availability Orchestrator deployment

Source: Veeam

Welcome to even more tips and tricks for a smooth Veeam Availability Orchestrator deployment. In the first part of our series, we covered the following topics:

  • Plan first, install next
  • Pick the right application to protect to get a feel for the product
  • Decide on your categorization strategy, such as using VMware vSphere Tags, and implement it
  • Start with a fresh virtual machine

Configure the DR site first

After you have installed Veeam Availability Orchestrator, the first site you configure will be your DR site. If you are also deploying production sites, it is important to note, you cannot change your site’s personality after the initial configuration. This is why it is so important to plan before you install, as we discussed in the first article in this series.

As you are configuring your Veeam Availability Orchestrator site, you will see an option for installing the Veeam Availability Orchestrator Agent on a Veeam Backup & Replication server. Remember, you have two options here:

  1. Use the embedded Veeam Backup & Replication server that is installed with Veeam Availability Orchestrator
  2. Push the Veeam Availability Orchestrator Agent to existing Veeam Backup & Replication servers

If you change your mind and do in fact want to use an existing Veeam Backup & Replication server, it is very easy to install the agent after initial configuration. In the Veeam Availability Orchestrator configuration screen, simply click VAO Agents, then Install. You will just need to know the name of the Veeam Backup & Replication server you would like to add and have the proper credentials.

Ensure replication jobs are configured

No matter which Veeam Backup & Replication server you choose to use for Veeam Availability Orchestrator, it is important to ensure your replication jobs are configured in Veeam Backup & Replication before you get too far in configuring your Veeam Availability Orchestrator environment. After all, Veeam Availability Orchestrator cannot fail replicas over if they are not there!

If for some reason you forget this step, do not worry. Veeam Availability Orchestrator will let you know when a Readiness Check is run on a Failover Plan. As the last step in creating a Failover Plan, Veeam Availability Orchestrator will run a Readiness Check unless you specifically un-check this option.

If you did forget to set up your replication jobs, Veeam Availability Orchestrator will let you know, because your Readiness Check will fail, and you will not see green checkmarks like this in the VM section of the Readiness Check Report.

For a much more in-depth overview of the relationship between Veeam Backup & Replication and Veeam Availability Orchestrator, be sure to read the white paper Technical Overview of Veeam Availability Orchestrator Integration with Veeam Backup & Replication.

Do not forget to configure Veeam DataLabs

Before you can run a Virtual Lab Test on your new Failover Plan (you can find a step-by-step guide to configuring your first Failover Plan here), you must first configure your Veeam DataLab in Veeam Backup & Replication. If you have not worked with Veeam DataLabs before (previously known as Veeam Virtual Labs), be sure to read the white paper I mentioned above, as configuration of your first Veeam DataLab is also covered there.

After you have configured your Veeam DataLab in Veeam Backup & Replication, you will then be able to run Virtual Lab Tests on your Failover Plan, as well as schedule Veeam DataLabs to run whenever you would like. Scheduling Veeam DataLabs is ideal to provide an isolated production environment for application testing, and can help you make better use of those idle DR resources.

Veeam DataLabs can be run on demand or scheduled from the Virtual Labs screen. When running or scheduling a lab, you can also select the duration of time you would like the lab to run for, which can be handy when scheduling Veeam DataLab resources for use by multiple teams.

There you have it, even more tips and tricks to help you get Veeam Availability Orchestrator up and running quickly and easily. Remember, a free 30-day trial of Veeam Availability Orchestrator is available, so be sure to download it today!

The post More tips and tricks for a smooth Veeam Availability Orchestrator deployment appeared first on Veeam Software Official Blog.


More tips and tricks for a smooth Veeam Availability Orchestrator deployment

How to Build a Failover Plan in Veeam Availability Orchestrator

Source: Veeam

One of the most important components of Veeam Availability Orchestrator is the Failover Plan. The Failover Plan is an essential part of an organization’s disaster recovery plan. It contains the virtual machines to be protected, what steps to take during recovery, and other important information.

Now, we are going to take a look at the step-by-step process to creating your disaster recovery plan with Veeam Availability Orchestrator.

When you start the New Failover Plan Wizard, you will first be prompted to select a site. If you have multiple sites in your VAO environment, you would pick the production site of the application you are protecting.

Next, we want to give our Failover Plan a name. I like to use something that is clear and concise, such as the application name. You can also enter a description of your Failover Plan, as well as the contact information for the application you are protecting.

Next, we select the VM Group (or multiple VM Groups) containing the virtual machines of our application. As we mentioned in a previous post, VM Groups can be powered by VMware vSphere Tags. In this list, you can see the VMware vSphere Tags I have setup in my environment. In this case, I am going to select the applications with the HeliumRUN Windows Tag, since it has the virtual machines I am protecting with this Failover Plan.

Next are our VM Recovery Options. In this screen, we can decide how to handle a VM recovery failure in the unlikely event it happens. We can use VAO to run scheduled recovery tests on a regular basis, so this sort of failure would be a rare occurrence. We can also specify if we want to recover our VMs in a particular order, or at the same time, or finally how many VMs to recover simultaneously.

In the next screen, we are going to select the steps we are going to take for each VM during recovery. After we finish creating the Failover Plan, we will be able to add additional steps for individual VMs, including custom steps we upload to VAO. This is useful when we want to configure particular steps to verify the operation of an application such as Exchange, SharePoint, ISS, or SQL. For a complete list of Failover Plan steps included with VAO, be sure to take a look at the Veeam Availability Orchestrator official user guide here. Some steps, such as Verify SQL Database require credentials. If you select a step that requires credentials, you will be prompted to enter them for use.

One of the most important things to remember is that after we execute a disaster recovery plan, our disaster recovery site is now our production site. Because of this, it is very important that our applications receive the same level of protection they would on any other day. Luckily, Veeam Availability Orchestrator makes this easy by leveraging a pre-configured template job in Veeam Backup & Replication. At this screen, you can simply select the backup job you wish to use to protect your data at the disaster recovery site.

After ensuring your data is protected after your disaster recovery plan has executed, the next step is to configure Veeam Availability Orchestrator’s reporting capabilities. VAO has a completely customizable report template. These disaster recovery plan templates allow for the inclusion of all information needed during a disaster recovery plan execution, and can be scheduled to be sent to key stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure the environment is always ready for failover. For more about the reports included in VAO, be sure to check out this guide to VAO terminology.

By default, the Plan Definition Report and Readiness Check are scheduled to run daily, which is a great way to check the health of our disaster recovery plan. The Plan Definition Report includes all the information about the Failover Plan we just created, as well as a log of changes that have been made. The Readiness Check is a light-weight test that checks to ensure we are ready for a failover at a moment’s notice. If for some reason our Readiness Check has an error, we can then act to remediate it before a disaster strikes.

Finally, we are presented with a summary screen that shows us how our Failover Plan has been configured.  Once we click Finish, we have completed setting up our Failover Plan.

If we want to make any changes to our Failover Plan, it’s as simple as right-clicking on our Failover Plan and selecting “Edit,” or highlighting our Failover Plan and clicking “Manage” and then “Edit” on the navigation bar. The edit state is where we can add specific steps to each virtual machine, or to the failover plan in general. For example, I have uploaded a script to be run in the event of a disaster to make some DNS changes for my environment DNS changes.

This screen can be used to add either Pre or Post failover steps, or steps to each VM individually. The steps can also be put into a particular order if desired. The best part of this functionally is the ability to create a custom flow of steps as needed for each VM. For example, I may want to use the included steps of Verify Web Server Port and Verify Web Site (IIS) for a web server in the Failover Plan, and different steps on the SQL server. All of these steps will then be captured in a Plan Definition Report the next time it is run.

Congratulations, you are now protecting your application with Veeam Availability Orchestrator! If you want to take a look at creating your own Failover Plan, you can download a 30-day FREE trial of Veeam Availability Orchestrator.

The post How to Build a Failover Plan in Veeam Availability Orchestrator appeared first on Veeam Software Official Blog.


How to Build a Failover Plan in Veeam Availability Orchestrator

Understanding Veeam Availability Orchestrator terminology

Source: Veeam

When it comes to creating disaster recovery (DR) plans, Veeam Availability Orchestrator makes it easy to ensure your data is available when disaster strikes. Beyond creating what we call a Failover Plan in Veeam Availability Orchestrator, we also ensure that our DR plans are tested successfully on a regular basis, with the documentation to prove it. This documentation can also be used for compliance, auditing, and ensuring members of an organization know the state of the DR plan at all times.

You may be asking yourself, “What is a Failover Plan?” after reading the first paragraph of this post. Don’t worry, we are about to explore what they are, as well as other terms we commonly use when talking about Veeam Availability Orchestrator.

A Failover Plan is what is created in Veeam Availability Orchestrator to protect applications. The Failover Plan is central to an organization’s DR plan. The goal of the Failover Plan is to make failovers (and fail backs) as simple as possible. Within a Failover Plan, there are a number of Plan Components, which are added to the Failover Plan to meet the business’ requirements.

VM Groups contain the virtual machines (VMs) we are ensuring Hyper-Availability for in the event of a disaster. The VM Groups are powered by VMware vSphere Tags. VMs are simply tagged in vCenter, and the vSphere Tag name will appear in Veeam Availability Orchestrator as shown in the screenshot above. Plan Steps are the steps taken on the VMs during a failover. This includes a number of Application Verification steps available out of the box including verification of applications such as Exchange, SQL, IIS, Domain Controllers, and DNS. Credentials for verifying the applications are also one of the plan components. In addition to these built in application verification tests, Custom Steps can also be added to the Plan Components, allowing organizations to leverage already existing DR scripts.

Template Jobs ensure data is backed up and kept available during a failover scenario. They are created in Veeam Backup & Replication and then added to a Failover Plan during creation. Another big component of a Failover Plan is a Virtual Lab, which we refer to as a Veeam Data Lab. Veeam Data Labs allow for an isolated copy of a production application to be created and tested against. When we are finished using this copy of the data, we simply delete it without ever having impacted or changed our actual production data. This allows for Virtual Lab Tests to be performed to prove recoverability, and the corresponding Test Execution Report to be generated.

We all know how difficult testing DR plans used to be. We would spend a few days locked in the data center, without even getting the applications running correctly. We would say it would get fixed “next time,” but we all know the truth was often that these broken DR plans were never fixed. Veeam Availability Orchestrator removes this overhead, and allows for quick and easy testing without impacting production. In the event a test fails, the Test Execution Report shows us exactly what went wrong so we can fix it.

Before we run a Virtual Lab Test, we first run a Readiness Check on our Failover Plan, and yes, this also comes with a Readiness Check Report so we can easily see the state of our DR plan. This is a lightweight test that is performed to ensure we are ready to failover at a moment’s notice. Best of all, this check can be scheduled to run daily, along with a Plan Definition Report. The Plan Definition Report shows us exactly what is in a Failover Plan, including the VMs in a VM Group and all of our Plan Steps. This report also shows any changes so we have a full audit trail of our DR plan.

As you can tell by this image, our Failover Plans are ready in the event of a failover. They are listed as a “verified” state which means we have successfully run a Virtual Lab Test and a Readiness Check, both of which can be scheduled to run as often as we would like. We can also ensure reports are sent to key stakeholders when the checks are run.

In the event of a failover, which we can trigger on demand or schedule, an Execution Report will be generated. This will detail the steps taken as part of the Failover Plan on the VMs in a VM Group, and show that the application has been successfully verified and is running in the DR site. We know the execution of a Failover Plan will be successful since we have already tested it successfully.

Now that you are ready to start speaking Availability, you can download a 30-day FREE trial of Veeam Availability Orchestrator and try it out. Make sure to check these tips and tricks to ensure a smooth first deployment.

The post Understanding Veeam Availability Orchestrator terminology appeared first on Veeam Software Official Blog.


Understanding Veeam Availability Orchestrator terminology

Getting started with Veeam Availability Orchestrator

Source: Veeam

I have been spending a lot of time working with Veeam Availability Orchestrator, or VAO, since it was released a few months ago. I have found VAO to be easy to set up and use and have come up with a few tips to help get VAO up and running even faster.

If you are not familiar with VAO, it enables organizations to reduce the time, cost and effort associated with planning for and recovering from a disaster to ensure compliance and the continued delivery of production IT services. A free 30 day trial is available for download from the Veeam website.

Now, let’s start with a few tips for a smooth deployment…

Plan first, install next

One of the fundamental constructs of VAO is the Disaster Recovery site or DR Site. All plans point to the DR Site. One of the earliest steps should be identifying a number of characteristics for the DR Site: Where is it? Will workloads need to be protected at the DR Site –– and how often? Will there need to be multiple DR Sites? Consider below the single DR Site:

Alternatively, multiple DR sites are shown in this figure:

If you like using the whiteboard, a fun way to remember this is “Draw before you install”

Start with the right application to protect

VAO Is a very powerful orchestration tool and it is tempting to make many applications hyper-available out of the gate. However, my recommendation is to start with one application you know very well. When you know an application this well, it makes it easy to translate it into VAO and create a Failover Plan. A Failover Plan is the step by step actions VAO will perform on the virtual machines you are protecting.  If you are currently using home grown disaster recovery scripts, you can also import them into VAO to create Custom Steps for your Failover Plan which can be run during recovery or testing. Picking an application you know the ins and outs of will allow you to quickly and easily prove how well VAO works in your environment, versus spending time troubleshooting why an application is not working if you forgot to include a database or another component. Once you have orchestrated the Availability of this application end to end and tested it successfully, you will be ready to take on the other applications in your environment.

Decide on your categorization strategy for virtual machines

VAO Uses a construct called VM Groups to determine which virtual machines make up an application and will be added to a Failover Plan. There are a few ways we can choose to do this. The first method is VMware vSphere tags. The embedded VeeamONE Server will simply get the vSphere tags you are using from vCenter and pass the information along to VAO. vSphere tags are also great for things like creating replication jobs and grouping components together in VMware vSphere. Remember to give your tags and categories easy to understand names such as the name of the application the inventory item is a part of. Examples of useless tag names are things like “Tag1,” “Storage Tag,” etc. For more information on how to get started using vSphere tags, be sure to look at this blog.

You can also use the embedded version of VeeamONE Monitor to directly group your virtual machines. This can be done by creating a new category in Business View. The interesting thing about using this method is you can use one or multiple criteria to group virtual machines. For example, you can choose to group powered on virtual machines, or powered on virtual machines in a specific data center. Please note you can only use one of these methods at a time, so it is a good idea to make your decision up front. For more information, you can see the Veeam Availability Orchestrator 1.0 Categorization Guide.

Start with a fresh virtual machine

I briefly mentioned the embedded VeeamONE server which is included in a VAO installation. VAO Also installs an embedded version of Veeam Backup & Replication, regardless of if you choose to use it or an existing installation of Backup & Replication. VAO Cannot be installed on a server that already has VeeamONE or Veeam Backup & Replication running, so it is best to start with a fresh Virtual Machine. The system requirements for the virtual machine are documented in the Veeam Availability Orchestrator 1.0 Deployment Guide, which is a great document to read before you get started with your first installation of VAO.

These first three tips will make getting started with VAO even easier. Be sure to stay tuned for even more tips coming soon.

The post Getting started with Veeam Availability Orchestrator appeared first on Veeam Software Official Blog.


Getting started with Veeam Availability Orchestrator

How to maximize your profit from Disaster Recovery investment

Source: Veeam

Sometimes, it can be difficult to get budget to enhance or upgrade Disaster Recovery (DR) resources. Organizations are hesitant to spend money on things that do not get used often, or even at all if you are lucky. Unfortunately, in today’s IT climate, DR is more important than ever. In the last few years, many organizations have become acquainted with disasters, whether they be natural or man-made, like the dramatically growing incidents of ransomware attack.

One of Veeam’s newest solutions, Veeam Availability Orchestrator, or VAO, can help increase the usability of a DR environment in many ways. First and foremost, VAO enables businesses to reduce the time, cost and effort associated with planning for and recovering from a disaster. Unlike most DR tools, it also produces highly-detailed, customizable documentation which can be automatically sent to key stakeholders and can be used for DR compliance.

At the heart of VAO is something we call the Failover Plan. The Failover Plan is the steps that will be taken for a group of Virtual Machines during a disaster. VAO comes with many Plan Steps out of the box, such as verifying applications like IIS, SQL, Exchange, and SharePoint. Custom Plan Steps can also be created, which means existing DR scripts can be leveraged as needed for all other applications critical to your business.

After a Failover Plan has been initially configured, a Readiness Check can be performed immediately, as well as scheduled to run on a recurring basis. The Readiness Check ensures your environment is ready for failover and alerts you to any issues preventing failover for remediation. If that wasn’t enough, we can take testing one step further by leveraging Veeam DataLabs, a secure, isolated virtual environment ideal for testing and troubleshooting, without impacting production.

VAO has the ability to start a Veeam DataLab on-demand, or on a scheduled basis. There are several use cases for this, first of which is the aforementioned testing. By running and proving a Failover Plan in a completely isolated DataLab, you can ensure that real world failovers will happen seamlessly in the event of a disaster. Upon test completion, a custom report is generated detailing the steps taken during running the test and the outcome, verifying the Failover Plan has been successfully executed. DataLab testing and documentation is perfect for delivering peace of mind to business continuity stakeholders, as well as proving DR compliance.

After a fully-functional copy of the production environment is proven, the fun can truly begin. Because DataLabs are so easy to run with VAO — just a few mouse clicks — it is possible to leverage these copies on a regular basis. This can enable using DR resources for many things such as:

  • Patch testing
  • Application upgrade testing
  • Security auditing and testing
  • DevOps
  • Analytics
  • And more!

Often, applications critical to the business are the most vulnerable. It is imperative to protect them in the event of any type of disaster. With Veeam, it’s possible to protect these applications and the business they support at a level that was previously unachievable by conducting frequent testing of critical security patches and application upgrades in a fully-isolated environment. This also extends to providing these isolated environments to security teams for auditing and testing.

It is often easy to underinvest in DR environments with old or slow hardware since they “probably won’t even be used,” ultimately resulting in a compromised DR strategy. By extending DR capabilities beyond traditional concepts and methods, sourcing funding for DR environments and initiatives becomes much easier. With VAO, instead of letting resources sit idle, your DR investments can now be easily leveraged to provide additional value to the business, all while ensuring the continuity of IT service should disaster strike.

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The post How to maximize your profit from Disaster Recovery investment appeared first on Veeam Software Official Blog.

How to maximize your profit from Disaster Recovery investment